German society

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Contributions to the critical history of the German language, poetry and eloquence , Leipzig, 1732

The German Society was a language society in Leipzig during the late Baroque and Enlightenment periods . Her goals included the promotion of the German language and its emancipation from Latin and French , and later the implementation of the New High German written language across the entire German-speaking area.

After its most prominent member, Johann Christoph Gottsched, left the dispute, the company quickly lost its importance. In 1945 it was dissolved.


1697: Familiar Görlitzisches Collegium Poeticum

The roots of the German Society begin with the Görlitzer Poetengesellschaft founded in 1697 , which was called the Vertrautes Görlitzisches Collegium Poeticum . This wreath of poets, brought into being by former students of the Görlitzer Gymnasium, initially only had regional significance, although its emergence in the bilingual Upper Lusatia is not insignificant for the later ideological orientation.

1717: Teutschübende Poetic Society

From 1717 the regional focus shifted to Leipzig . The poet and professor of history Johann Burckhardt Mencke took over the leadership of the group of poets, which from now on called itself Teutschübende Poetic Society . It is usually used under this name in secondary literature, because only the Germanist Detlef Döring was able to prove the Görlitz predecessor organization in 2002.

Under Mencke, who called himself “Philander von der Linde”, and the later rector of Zwickau, Christian Clodius (1694–1778), the society was given a language care orientation for the first time , although the members could not agree on a common goal.

1727: German Society

Only Johann Christoph Gottsched , who came from Königsberg in 1724, succeeded in giving the society a new constitution in 1727, creating a new type of nationally active language care institution. The Académie française was the explicit godfather. The new claim was also expressed through a name change to Deutsche Gesellschaft .

Since then, the aim of the company has been the construction of a national German standard language that has been cleared of foreign words and free of dialect colors. The statutes stated:

“One should at all times strive for the purity and correctness of the language; that is, avoid not only all foreign words but also all German incorrect expressions and provincial idioms; so that one writes neither Silesian nor Meißnisch, neither Franconian nor Lower Saxon, but pure High German; as one can understand it all over Germany. "

- Statutes of the German Society in Leipzig after the reorganization in 1727

An ambitious goal was set for the French model, because the reality in the German-speaking area did not correspond at all to the conditions in France. On the one hand, there were many small and large German-speaking principalities, counties and territories that were only formed into modern, mostly absolutist, state structures during this period. On the other hand, the entire German-speaking area was deeply divided into a Protestant north and a Catholic south. This split affected not only religion but also the level of language. In the Protestant north and center of Germany, the early New High German language, which goes back to Martin Luther and which has since been further developed by the German language purists , had established itself in the early 17th century . In the Catholic South, on the other hand, there was a second, independent written language, the Upper German written language . Their literary production lagged somewhat behind the Protestant countries, as there was still more publication in Latin in the Catholic South, but it was precisely at this time that Bavarian and Austrian scholars and the Catholic clergy began to expand the Upper German competition norm. For example, the “Bavarian Musenberg” or Parnassus Boicus had only recently been founded in Munich in 1722 with the declared aim of establishing the Bavarian-Austrian variant of writing as a national written language. In the Reformed parts of Switzerland, the Alemannic Zurich translation of the Bible gave rise to another, third written German language.

Johann Christoph Gottsched began to press ahead with his project, and shortly after the reorganization, branches of the Leipzig parent company opened in various cities, for example in 1728 in Jena, 1732 in Weimar, 1733 in Halle and 1738 in Göttingen and Wittenberg. Later on, further subsidiaries from Bern via Strasbourg to Berlin, Greifswald , Danzig and Königsberg were to be added. These subsidiaries were initially limited to the Evangelical regions, which were already sympathetic to Saxon German .

The participating writers and scholars used correspondence and journals published by the society as a communication medium. In Leipzig itself Gottsched published the contributions to the critical history of the German language, poetry and eloquence , of which a first anthology appeared in 1732. In the interests of enlightenment, these writings were devoted to current topics in science, language criticism and language planning, as well as reviews of new literary publications. The society's great goal of achieving official recognition as an Academy of Sciences failed due to tensions with the Dresden court .

1738: Break with Gottsched

Johann Christoph Gottsched, 1744

In addition to this defeat, there were more and more internal disputes, as Gottsched, who was Associate Professor of Poetry in 1730 and Full Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in Leipzig in 1734, made a career at the university and at the same time made the German Society more and more his personal supraregional mouthpiece. Initially, numerous writers and linguists had corresponded with the Leipzig Society; Among them was even the Bavarian-Austrian grammarian Johann Balthasar Antesperg , who had sent his “writing tables” for assessment in 1734 and personally traveled to Leipzig in 1735.

But now there was more and more criticism of the linguistic orientation of society and Gottsched's dictatorial leadership style. Especially the dispute with the respected Swiss philologists Johann Jakob Bodmer and Johann Jakob Breitinger let the authority of the senior, so the title of the director, wane. Disputes about his “dictatorial” leadership style and offended female vanity contributed to the fact that on June 11, 1738, it came to a break and Gottsched resigned from German society.

It didn't hurt his personal career. In 1739 he became rector of the philosophy faculty at Leipzig University. He dealt intensively with language criticism, literary and theater theory and continued to publish the articles .

Further development

The Leipzig German Society or Societas Philoteutonico Poetica , as its Latin name was at this time, quickly lost its importance with its prominent senior. In 1745 Gottsched also founded two new magazines, the New Book Hall of the Beautiful Sciences and Freyen Künste and The Latest from Graceful Scholarship , which from then on played an important role in the supraregional scholarly discussion. The Leipzig society was thrown back to regional importance. Although it had other prominent members and meetings continued to take place, hardly any publications appeared.

In 1827 the name was changed again to the German Society for Research on the Patriotic Language and Antiquities in Leipzig . In December 1943, their holdings were destroyed in the air raid on Leipzig. In 1945 the company was dissolved.


See also


  • Detlef Döring : The history of the German Society in Leipzig / from the foundation to the first years of Johann Christoph Gottsched's senior council ; Tübingen: Niemeyer, 2002, ISBN 3-484-36570-6
  • Friedrich Pollack: "So many gilded bonds of poetic works" - The library of the German Society in Leipzig , in: Fuchs, Thomas / Mackert, Christoph (ed.): Leipziger, your books! Twelve chapters on the inventory history of the Leipzig City Library, Leipzig 2009, pp. 66–83, 152–159. ( Online )
  • Ulrich Ammon: The German language in Germany, Austria and Switzerland - The problem of national varieties ; Walter de Gruyter, 1995, ISBN 311014753X
  • Gerda Mraz: The Josephine Archduke ABC or name booklet , Harenberg Kommunikation: Dortmund, 1980, ISBN 3-88379-167-9

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Gerda Mraz: The Josephine Archducal ABC or name booklet ; Dortmund, 1980; Chapter: Gottsched and the German Society , page 64
  2. Gerda Mraz: The Josephine Archducal ABC or name booklet ; Dortmund 1980; Chapter: Grammar for Austrians versus grammar for Upper Saxony , page 79
  3. biography Johann Christoph Gottsched
  4. ^ University of Leipzig: The German Society